Canadian-made app making food more affordable in the developing world

SokoText helps slum vendors reduce prices while boosting their profit

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A SokoText vendor puts up a sticker promoting his participation in the for-profit discount-food scheme. (SokoText)

A SokoText vendor puts up a sticker promoting his participation in the for-profit discount-food scheme. (SokoText)

It’s a simple notion, but a powerful one: if small-scale food vendors in developing countries like Kenya had the purchasing clout of Loblaws or Walmart, they could cut costs and pass on the savings to their customers.

Enter SokoText, a text-message-based startup. By aggregating individual purchasing orders, SokoText can obtain produce on behalf of local fruit and vegetable vendors at wholesale prices. (Kiosk owners use cellphones to text orders and pick them up from a nearby outlet the following day.) The for-profit venture, led by Canadian CEO Jonah Brotman, keeps a portion of the margin (it buys at 30% below retail and sells to vendors at 20% below) and aims to generate more revenue through mobile phone ads. From its current base in Nairobi, it aims to expand throughout Kenya and, ultimately, the world.

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